Iain Campbell - 'Piano Works'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we return our gaze to Iain Campbell, an artist we delved into last weekend who had released two absolutely stunning classically inspired instrumental compositions. Now the Glasgow artist has released a four track EP which is currently available on Bandcamp entitled ‘Piano Works.’ Does this short collection stand tall against its excellent predecessors? Let’s find out.

The songs on ‘Piano Works’ are inherently different in execution than ‘Winter’ and ‘I’m Still Here,’ the two songs we explored here on the Spotlight last weekend. These four tunes are essentially live recordings. There are no overdubs and the songs were recorded live in one take. All four are original compositions that were also recorded and produced by Campbell. Thus, there’s a more raw atmosphere to ‘Piano Works’ than those other two singles.

‘Sometimes’ opens up the EP and sets a beautiful tone for the collection, offering a melancholy exploration of Campbell’s prowess as an emotive pianist. Completely lathered in reverb, the song actually sounds like it has droning synthesizers in the backdrop. (It doesn’t.) It’s a lovely piece, though Campbell’s final mix and master is a bit all over the place. When it peaks, the sound distorts, and it’s difficult to tell if that was intentional or not. (This happens throughout the EP as well.)

Hence, moving focus away from the production quality and focusing it on the music, ‘The Last Door’ is another somber instrumental that’s especially moody. It has a very ethereal atmosphere, as if it’s scoring a dreamy walk through a mystical spirit realm. Every note of ‘The Last Door’ feels important… the listener can feel the weight of the composition. One can’t help but wonder: is there a conceptual story behind these songs?

‘Embers’ is an enthralling piece as well, one that cascades in tiny waterfalls around the listener. Despite the noise levels peaking and distorting, I’d still argue these songs are worth listening to on a quality set-up. The intricacy of their performances is worth engrossing oneself into. The finale, ‘Horizon,’ actually does have a sense of finality to it, too, as if it’s scoring the sun rising after a long evening. It’s a more uplifting track - a perfect closer.

‘Piano Works’ is much stronger as one larger sonic portrait than four individual tracks. I wouldn’t even recommend listening to songs individually. If you want to hear this album, sit down with all four songs and listen to them in order. They’re all similar, but in a complementary way that captures an overarching emotion. As I said in my last review, there aren’t enough talented classically-influenced composers and pianists in the indie scene, so Campbell’s work shouldn’t go unnoticed.